Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Doctrinal Treatises of St. Augustin: Chapter 1
Chapter 1.—There is a Double Rule for Understanding the Scriptural Modes of Speech Concerning the Son of God. These Modes of Speech are of a Threefold Kind.
2. Wherefore, although we hold most firmly, concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, what may be called the canonical rule, as it is both disseminated through the Scriptures, and has been demonstrated by learned and Catholic handlers of the same Scriptures, namely, that the Son of God is both underp. 38 stood to be equal to the Father according to the form of God in which He is, and less than the Father according to the form of a servant which He took; 211 in which form He was found to be not only less than the Father, but also less than the Holy Spirit; and not only so, but less even than Himself,—not than Himself who was, but than Himself who is; because, by taking the form of a servant, He did not lose the form of God, as the testimonies of the Scriptures taught us, to which we have referred in the former book: yet there are some things in the sacred text so put as to leave it ambiguous to which rule they are rather to be referred; whether to that by which we understand the Son as less, in that He has taken upon Him the creature, or to that by which we understand that the Son is not indeed less than, but equal to the Father, but yet that He is from Him, God of God, Light of light. For we call the Son God of God; but the Father, God only; not of God. Whence it is plain that the Son has another of whom He is, and to whom He is Son; but that the Father has not a Son of whom He is, but only to whom He is father. For every son is what he is, of his father, and is son to his father; but no father is what he is, of his son, but is father to his son. 212
3. Some things, then, are so put in the Scriptures concerning the Father and the Son, as to intimate the unity and equality of their substance; as, for instance, “I and the Father are one;” 213 and, “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God;” 214 and whatever other texts there are of the kind. And some, again, are so put that they show the Son as less on account of the form of a servant, that is, of His having taken upon Him the creature of a changeable and human substance; as, for instance, that which says, “For my Father is greater than I;” 215 and, “The Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” For a little after he goes on to say, “And hath given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man.” And further, some are so put, as to show Him at that time neither as less nor as equal, but only to intimate that He is of the Father; as, for instance, that which says, “For as the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself;” and that other: “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do.” 216 For if we shall take this to be therefore so said, because the Son is less in the form taken from the creature, it will follow that the Father must have walked on the water, or opened the eyes with clay and spittle of some other one born blind, and have done the other things which the Son appearing in the flesh did among men, before the Son did them; 217 in order that He might be able to do those things, who said that the Son was not able to do anything of Himself, except what He hath seen the Father do. Yet who, even though he were mad, would think this? It remains, therefore, that these texts are so expressed, because the life of the Son is unchangeable as that of the Father is, and yet He is of the Father; and the working of the Father and of the Son is indivisible, and yet so to work is given to the Son from Him of whom He Himself is, that is, from the Father; and the Son so sees the Father, as that He is the Son in the very seeing Him. For to be of the Father, that is, to be born of the Father, is to Him nothing else than to see the Father; and to see Him working, is nothing else than to work with Him: but therefore not from Himself, because He is not from Himself. And, therefore, those things which “He sees the Father do, these also doeth the Son likewise,” because He is of the Father. For He neither does other things in like manner, as a painter paints other pictures, in the same way as he sees others to have been painted by another man; nor the same things in a different manner, as the body expresses the same letters, which the mind has thought; but “whatsoever things,” saith He, “the Father doeth, these same things also doeth the Son likewise.” 218 He has said both “these same things,” and “likewise;” and hence the working of both the Father and the Son is indivisible and equal, but it is from the Father to the Son. Therefore the Son cannot do anything of Himself, except what He seeth the Father do. From this rule, then, whereby the Scriptures so speak as to mean, not to set forth one as less than another, but only to show which is of which, some have drawn this meaning, as if the Son were said to be less. And some among ourselves who are more unlearned and least instructed in these things, p. 39 endeavoring to take these texts according to the form of a servant, and so misinterpreting them, are troubled. And to prevent this, the rule in question is to be observed whereby the Son is not less, but it is simply intimated that He is of the Father, in which words not His inequality but His birth is declared.
Phil. 2:6, 7Phil. 2:6, 738:212
[Augustin here brings to view both the trinitarian and the theanthropic or mediatorial subordination. The former is the status of Sonship. God the Son is God of God. Sonship as a relation is subordinate to paternity. But a son must be of the same grade of being, and of the same nature with his father. A human son and a human father are alike and equally human. And a Divine Son and a Divine father are alike and equally divine. The theanthropic or mediatorial subordination is the status of humiliation, by reason of the incarnation. In the words of Augustin, it is “that by which we understand the Son as less, in that he has taken upon Him the creature.” The subordination in this case is that of voluntary condescension, for the purpose of redeeming sinful man.—W.G.T.S.]38:213
John 10.30John x. 3038:214
Phil. 2.6Phil. ii. 638:215
John 14.28John xiv. 2838:216
John 5:22, 27, 26, 19John 5:22, 27, 26, 1938:217
Matt. 14:26, John 9:6, 7Matt. xiv. 26, and John 9:6, 738:218
John 5.19John v. 19
Next: Chapter 2
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